Commercial truck drivers that are “in for the long haul” spend many consecutive hours behind the wheel. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has hours of service (HOS) regulations that limit the amount of consecutive driving hours for these workers. These time limits hover around 10 straight hours, as long as they are accompanied by down time.
These rules are in place for safety reasons. They protect others who share the roads with the trucks, as well as the drivers. Still, the long hours can be grueling, and can cause serious injuries for these truckers, even when they do not get into accidents.
Truckers are susceptible to musculoskeletal injuries, also known as soft tissue injuries, with back and shoulder injuries being the most prevalent. A 2014 United States Department of Labor report showed that each back injury causes a worker to miss nine days of work, while a shoulder injury can lead to 46 missed days. It also stated that Workers’ Compensation claims for shoulder injuries are higher, on average, than all other ones.
Why Shoulder Injuries are Complicated
The shoulder joint is comprised of eight ligaments, nine muscles, and a total of three bones. It works as a ball and socket, which makes it capable of a high range of motion. These factors make the shoulder one of the most unstable joints in the human body; not much force is needed to cause a shoulder injury.
Shoulders function like tools, and are constantly in use when driving a truck. Risk factors like keeping the arms elevated, small working environments such as the truck cab, repetitive motions, tiredness, and long working hours are all part of the long-haul truck driver’s daily routine.
Loading cargo, unloading cargo, and falls can also cause shoulder trauma. These injuries are not the most common kind, but in the majority of cases they require longer recovery times. This leads to higher costs for all those involved.
Back injuries are more common than shoulder injuries, and they can be caused by accidents, general repetitive motions, poor posture, or strains. Sitting for extended periods of time can lead to spinal compression, which can limit range of motion and cause lower back pain.
Many truckers also experience sciatica, a condition resulting from a pinched nerve that starts in the low back and runs down the leg.
A study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham looked at data gathered by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 2010. The NIOSH surveyed 1,300 long-haul truckers throughout the country. It revealed that the drivers experienced high incidences of musculoskeletal injuries, with close to 50 percent of these affecting their necks, arms, and backs.
Most of these had been caused by falls or hitting equipment or an object. The majority of these injuries were strains, sprains, and fractures. Fifty-three percent of these injured drivers had to miss time from work.
The study indicated that more effort needs to be devoted towards preventing these injuries. The researchers also recommended that employers do their part by providing safety equipment and following strict adherence to driving time regulations.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Protect the Rights of Injured Truck Drivers
If you are experiencing work-related injuries, including shoulder, back, or neck pain, call the Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation law firm of Freedman & Lorry, P.C. We represent truckers and workers from all industries. Call 888-999-1962 or complete an online form for a free case evaluation. Our offices are in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Pinehurst, North Carolina, and we service clients in Pennsylvania.